The lessons children learn stick with them throughout their lives. That’s why it’s crucial to make good health a habit early on. From helping kids learn social skills to teaching them to be more independent and creative, developing a healthy lifestyle now will set them up for success in the future.
Not sure where to start? We’ve gathered some ideas.
Be brave — experiment
Kids love things that seem unexplainable: That’s why science projects are such a big hit. Help your children feel a sense of satisfaction by helping them:
• Build a volcano and make it erupt with baking soda
• Construct a homemade lava lamp
• Create their very own art pieces
• Tend to a garden
These activities will help your kids see tangible results from their efforts, learn responsibility and maybe even develop a healthy passion for nature and science.
Children who are actively involved in meal preparation are more likely to understand the values of nutritious meals. Not only does the internet have a treasure trove of free, healthy recipes for your kids to browse and choose from, today’s grocery stores give them access to healthier foods. Just remember to feed your family before you go since grocery shopping on a full stomach makes you less likely to impulsively purchase unhealthy items.
From food prep and cooking to setting the table, preparing dinner can also be a great team activity. Divide and conquer as a family and be sure to rotate roles often so each kid benefits from learning all it takes to put a healthy meal on the table.
We’d also encourage you to eat as a family. Taking this time together allows space for much-needed interaction and conversation. It also helps us slow down while we’re eating, giving our brains a chance to recognize when we’ve consumed all we need, helping us to learn to avoid overeating.
Encourage kiddos to use their imagination
Your children’s mental and emotional health are just as important to development as their physical health. Instead of spending hours playing with smartphones and tablets, encourage them to:
• Explore their creativity by reading together
• Express their thoughts through writing or drawing
• Perform skits at home
• Play with toys like Lincoln Logs and Legos
Creative outlets that challenge the boundaries of imagination set kids up to be problem solvers, wonderers and empathizers.
Finding ways to keep your kids physically active will help them burn off built-up energy in a healthy way. Exercise also stimulates nerve cells that help children focus and retain what they’ve learned in school. And most importantly, active children are more likely to avoid developing serious diseases like obesity and Type-2 diabetes.
Dedicate at least 60 minutes every day to physical activity by:
• Getting outdoors. Most communities have recreational areas that are free for anyone to use. Explore your town’s walking trails, sign up for an hour to play tennis at the local court or find a park where you can play catch. A round of miniature golf or a few swings at the batting cages are also fun, safe and affordable.
• Making household chores active (and fun). Kids enjoy a little competition, so why not encourage it? Have your kids compete to see who can rake the most leaves, take more walks with the dog or shovel the most snow. By giving your kids a chance to show their capabilities, you’ll have more rounded children and a more functional home.
• Training as a family. You can benefit from physical exercise, no matter your age. First, be sure to set a good example by going to the gym regularly. Then, consider teaming up with your kids to turn your backyard into an obstacle course or train for a walk or 5K that benefits a cause the whole family supports.
Your kids will grow up understanding that physical fitness should be part of their routine. And when they get old enough, they can even help spot you and encourage your progress.
Friendly competition among family members helps children learn to strategize, develop partnerships and understand the importance of losing with grace at an early age. You can keep your activities sedentary with jigsaw puzzles, board games and card games. Or you can get your family up and moving with charades or a scavenger hunt.
Need more ideas? We’re here to help.
Your child’s pediatrician or your family medicine physician can be a great resource when it comes to healthy living: Make them a part of the conversation. Find a provider near you.